State Pot Laws: A Throwback To The Old South?

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California and other states that want to make marijuana available to sick people are flouting federal drug laws in the same way that Southern states defied national civil rights laws, a Bush administration lawyer told the American Bar Association, the Associated Press reports.

Five federal lawsuits involve those who grow, use or recommend marijuana for medical use in California. The Bush administration wants the Supreme Court to agree that Washington has the power to revoke medical licenses of doctors who invoke state laws and recommend pot for their patients.

States cannot choose when to abide by federal law and when not to, Justice Department lawyer Mark Quinlivan told the ABA: “You cannot cherry-pick.”

California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, legalizing marijuana for medical use. Eight other states followed suit.

“There is a basic question of what power does California have,” said lawyer Gerald Uelman, Quinlivan’s opponent in two cases. The federal law regulating drugs “is not a federal takeover of the medical system” or the duty of doctors to help the very ill, Uelman said. He and a California attorney general’s office lawyer objected to the civil rights analogy and the notion that California is asserting the kind of states’ rights argument used by Alabama to avoid desegregating its schools.

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